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Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (Religion and Postmodernism) [Paperback]

Jacques Derrida

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29 Oct 1998 Religion and Postmodernism
In this work, Jacques Derrida guides the reader through an extended meditation on remembrance, religion, time, and technology - all occasioned by a deconstructive analysis of the notion of archiving. The archival concept has played a pivotal role in numerous critical debates - a place of origin, yet of perpetuity, a place of stasis and order, yet of discovery, the notion of archive houses a complex of diverse, and often disparate, meanings. As a depository of civic record and social history whose very name derives from the Greek word for town hall, the archive would seem to be a public entity, yet it is stocked with the personal, even intimate, artifacts of private lives. This inherent tension between public and private inaugurates, argues Derrida, an inquiry into the human impulse to preserve, through technology as well as tradition, both a historical and a psychic past.

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dedication From Freud's Father To His Son 29 Mar 2010
By Etienne ROLLAND-PIEGUE - Published on Amazon.com
Archive Fever - A Freudian Impression is the text of a lecture given by Jacques Derrida at the Freud Museum in London during an international colloquium entitled "Memory: The Question of Archives" organized by the Société Internationale d'Histoire de la Psychiatrie et de la Psychanalyse. The location, the theme of the conference, the title of the lecture, the list of persons present and absent: all matters enormously for the understanding of this text, which highlights a decisive aspect of Derrida's thought.

Freud's last house after he flew to London in 1938 became a museum after his daughter Anna passed away in 1982. It shelters part of Freud's personal archives, his library, his daughter's papers, and a research center on the history of psychoanalysis.

To paraphrase Derrida, Freud's house is used as a scene of domiciliation: it gives shelter, it assigns to residence, and it consigns, as it gathers together signs. As a place for archives [the word comes from the Greek arkheion, the residence of the superior magistrate], it is at once institutive and conservative. "It has the force of law, of a law which is the law of the house," writes Derrida. The archivization produces as much as it records the event. It opens "the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of a promise and of a responsibility for tomorrow". In the case of psychoanalysis, the conservation of archives raises specific questions: "What is this new science of which the institutional and theoretical archive ought by rights to comprise the most private documents, sometimes secret?" asks Derrida.

But the House of Freud is also the place of a lineage: that of the father of psychoanalysis, whom all analysts claim as ancestor, and also the lineage of an individual who was taken in his own web of kinship relationships, in particular with his father Jakob and with his daughter Anna. The private library contains a Philippsohn Bible that Sigmund Freud had studied in his youth and that his father, having rebound the volume in "a new skin", gave him back on his thirty-fifth birthday, inscribed with a personal dedication in Hebrew.

It may be possible to read into the text of the dedication an allusion to Freud's circumcision, although the point is a matter of debate. But the gift of the father refers unambiguously to Freud's Jewish heritage: as a child Sigmund Freud had been "deeply engrossed" in the reading of the Bible, and as an adult he was still able to decipher his father's handwritten inscription in Hebrew, which renewed the covenant passed when the Book was first given.

This question of deferred obedience to the father, and of allegiance to the Law, was also taken up by Freud's daughter Anna. In 1977, she was invited by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to inaugurate an endowed chair carrying the name of her long dead father. Unable to go, she sent a written statement which acknowledges, among other things, that the accusation according to which psychoanalysis is a "Jewish science", "under present circumstances, can serve as a title of honour."

This is the main point Derrida wants to get at. It has now become difficult to discuss Freud and psychoanalysis without any reference to Judaism. Freud, of course, vehemently denied the notion of a Jewish science, and he emphasized the universal (non-Jewish) essence of psychoanalysis, although he sometimes hinted--in the private archives unearthed by historians--the influence of his Judaism or Jewishness over the elaboration of the new science.

This debate was forcefully addressed by the historian Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi in his Freud's Moses: Judaism Terminable and Interminable. Yerushalmi, who "discovered" the Hebrew dedication in Freud's Bible, is the absentee to which Derrida's lecture is addressed. Indeed, the whole text could have been condensed in the two words of a dedication, a "To Yerushalmi" that would also have echoed the greetings that Jews exchange at the Passover Seder and at Yom Kippur.

As Yerushalmi himself notes, the notion of a Jewish science will very much depend on how the very terms Jewish and science are to be defined. Derrida remarks that "only the future of science, in particular that of psychoanalysis, will say whether this science is Jewish, because it will tell us what science is and what Jewishness is." Following Yerushalmi, Derrida posits that if Judaism is terminable, Jewishness is interminable: it is "precisely the waiting of the future, the opening of a relation to the future, the experience of the future" as an event radically to come. In other words, it is "the affirmation of affirmation, the yes to the originary yes" that deconstructionist theologians like John Caputo sum up as a double "oui-oui".

But to Derrida the question of Freud's relation to Judaism also covers a more personal aspect. He refers in a parenthesis to himself as "I who have not only a father named Hayim, but also, as if by chance, a grandfather named Moses. And another, Abraham." He mentions several times the issue of circumcision, "that singular and immemorial archive called circumcision", adding that "this is not just any example for me". And he confesses that in addressing a colleague on the issue of Freud and Judaism, "I am speaking of myself."

There are other themes addressed in the text: the issue of ghosts, addressed at length in Specters of Marx but that Derrida revisits by noting that Freud also "had his ghosts"; the link between history and psychoanalysis, or between psychoanalysis and any discipline, as no discipline can escape, deny or repress the "Freudian impression". We even learn in passing that Derrida was the proud owner of a portable Macintosh computer. And of course, there is the style, the inimitable verb of Derrida, which is beautifully rendered by the translator. This short volume is a worthwhile addition to the Derridean corpus.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Derrida's Analysis of Psychoanalysis: an Analysis of Freud. 17 Jan 2012
By jeremy.jae@cell.matrix.cn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is definitive Derrida "behind the Venetian blinds" as he himself would have said in his later years. It is a transcript of a very important lecture Derrida gave in June of 1994 entitled The Concept of the Archive: a Freudian Impression. Derrida begins the exposition by giving a deconstructive exegetic analysis of the word "archive'' as an etonym of the Greek "Arkhe" which originally meant "commencement" or "commandment" in the ancient Greek dialect. From here we follow Derrida into an understanding of the topology of this commencement, where history commences or comes together at the location of the archive -- a place where the hidden is kept and where the documents of history are preserved by archivists (the governing body of the archive who know how to read them.) Historiography can give little more than an orthographic understanding of a text's intended meaning and this is not to say the least of works demanding the specific rigour of the eclectic writings of the father of psychoanalysis. Deconstruction is neither historiography nor orthography as any Derrida reader knows that the aesthetics of grammar can only be an aesthetics of truth if it is taken in a holistic form to encompass all interpretations.

In Archive Fever we are taken on an exhibition of the Freud archives by one who knows the rarity of gaining access to the works of (psycho)analysis. By a legitimate hermeneutic authority, the archivists or archons (guardians of it's contents) live and work each day with the documents. They alone secure both to protect and to give authoritative readings (what the author would have intended us to eventually uncover.) As Derrida say's the archons secure and are accorded the place of hermeneutic authority and competence, they have the power to interpret what is held in the archive (i.e., to command or posit what is deposited in the archive.) To authorize who can enter as well as who can give proper interpretation of the archive and it's contents. Derrida and Ricoeur have both independently pointed out the embodied archaeology within psychoanalysis. Ricoeur has said in the Conflict of Interpretations that "the second phase of the philosophical interpretation I propose is characterized by the dialectic between archaeology and teleology. This advance in reflection indeed represents something new, a polarity between the reflective Arche and Telos. I reach this stage by a reappropriation of the temporal aspects of Freudianism..."

Perhaps only quantum mechanics can compare as the one true science of physical nature alongside the one known as psychoanalysis, the science of mental nature, in that very few professionals can claim to understand either method esp. in the programs offered by the Anglo-American university. As any good analyst today knows: psychoanalysis does not pretend to be psychology nor attempts to be understood as such and Freud himself is not any other psychologist but the father of modern psychology. Aside from perhaps Lacan, Ricoeur, and Derrida popular interpretations of Freud cannot be situated within the tradition and lineage that began between Freud's students and his predecessors within the Vienna Circle. Before he came into discovering psychoanalysis Freud was a student of the Austrian psychologist Franz Brentano whom Freud admired and having attended many of his lecture courses became an initiate in what was all the vogue at the time: the new psychology. Brentano is credited for having lifted Medieval 18th century psychological practice from arcane materialism and speculative medicine onto the level of Kantian metaphysics (rational psychology.) Brentano's metaphysics of the psyche i.e., metapsychology or rational-empirical psychology provided the metaphysical foundations for Freud's psycho-organic interpretation of the mind. In Freud's formative years Brentano was lecturing on the new psychology that Meinong and himself had worked out through an idealist model of Aristotelian metaphysics. Once Brentano had gained immense support for his theoretical investigations empirical psychology would become metapsychology as represented by his student Sigmund Freud. Traditional metapsychology does not build itself up from Platonic or Hegelian idealism but takes directly from Kant's rationalism as governing the logic of Aristotle's soul/mind/matter/spirit principles. In an 1889 letter to Wilhelm Fliess, Freud writes (with regards to his Brentano courses) "I am continually occupied by psychology - it is really metapsychology".

Following the first section on the meaning of the archive, Derrida continues to excoriate the archive from within deconstruction as it is the reservoir or storage (the unconscious.) With the Freud archive/museum as his place of inquiry (Freud's residence as the topos of this deposited content) Derrida allows us to discover that the true meaning of psychoanalysis is echoed in the impression it gives off, the phantasm, the dream image i.e., a symbolization of what is re-pressed and then revealed in it's impression. Quintessential Derrida poetizes the art of deconstructing the impressions left in us by massive print culture when he is reconstituting the economic aesthetic or the portfolio of individual works of history that are meant to give the gift of 'impress'; to present what could not otherwise be presented without giving away it's secret and destroying the truth of it's historical development.

The psyche, according to 19th century philosophy of mind, is generated by this individualizing process of the developmental ego at the moment reason (another mode of impression) is able to make sense of the world. Freud's apparent distant relationship with his father makes room for hidden emotions as the young genius growing up in a moderately conservative Jewish household has found a perfect residence for his inquisitive mind in the secret language of mythology and dreams. Derrida speaks of the illusion of distant emotion that is given symbolic depth in the form of the gift; the gift of love that Derrida captures in his biographical telling of the gift presented to Sigmund by his father on the occasion his 35th birthday (a newly re-bound copy of Freud's childhood Bible.)

What Derrida has attempted to do in this very 'impressive' expose is to prove that psychoanalysis is "a Jewish science", and perhaps if we had access to the complete lecture series we would know exactly why psychoanalysis is given this designation. As a boy young Sigmund was preoccupied with a personal study of myths and not limited to the myths within the Old Testament that he would later write about in his memoires. It was not merely his Tauric-sensualistic foci on the sexual that lead Freud to such discontent with society over the rise of psychic epidemics at the turn of the century. There were much deeper religious and political problems for the socially oppressed Austrian Jews at that time as the Habsburg Empire was climaxing towards it's immediate decline and it's Jewish population was yearning for a return to the true Austrian cultural "homeland" they had helped build before the Habsburg's had absorbed their culture during the late Victorian era.

Why has Derrida become convinced that psychoanalysis is a Jewish science and how does he interpret psychoanalysis as Jewish? In the context of modernity after Freud we would say that Judaism is the source, the fountainhead of the religion of reason. The Jews created the religion of reason. The other religions that dominate the Occident are either altogether inadequate, or they are derivative of Judaism. It is true that Judaism was not always in every respect the religion of reason. It needed the aid of Kantian philosophy to free itself completely from it's mythical and logico-mythical irrelevancies i.e., from ancient to modern Jewish thought. But this aid merely enabled Judaism to actualize fully what it meant to be from the beginning and what it fundamentally was at all times. Why psychoanalysis is a Jewish science and why the gentile psyche has difficulty gaining access to it, and this is the key to why resistance to self-analysis and the resistance to analyst-patient engagement in psychology has always been prevalent. Modern gentility represents something different from it's ancient and Medieval definition after Freud, it represents the pre-rational or preanalytical psyche that struggles with itself to grasp absolute reason following the Greco-Roman mythos of the Christian era. (From the complexity of myth and the logic that is derived from myth.) Myth, in its primitive form, is the sediment of primal logic. Freud was the first speculative anthropologist who looked at the relationship of the human psyche to primitive symbolism and their association to drives and representational emotions expressed symbolically to protect the id and superego. Derrida argues that to truly practice analysis, analysis itself must pass through the dialectical analysis that is at once a generative hermeneutic analysis of Freud's own development and the development of psychoanalysis. To understand Freud's place in modern science one should be required to study European intellectual history as a totality and not as separate historical events of progress. Analyst's who wish to gain a deeper understanding of their practice should start with Derrida, deconstruct method and work their way back from our postmodern condition/problem, as exemplified by Derrida, to sufficiently access the instance and place of modernity that was the psychoanalytic revolution of Sigmund Freud.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great translation! 8 Mar 2010
By GRH - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Its often really hard to get the meaning of words just right when taking them from another language. This was a great job.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic 21 April 2014
By T. G. Cline - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What can be said about this work that hasn't already been written? Derrida provides an interesting challenge to the role of archives and public memory, and does so in his signature style. Whether that makes you want to read this or not, the work is nothing if not a seminal take on archives.
2 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bought this for a Class. Hated it 3 Mar 2013
By Daniel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book for a Philosophy-ish course I took while in college. I hated reading every page of it. Although the writer has some interesting ideas to present, his dense language alone made it particularly difficult to get through even a few sentences without asking yourself "What the heck is he trying to say?"

If you're interested in pompous, complex, theoretical ramblings, then you'd love this book. Otherwise, stay clear.
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